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Rochberg, Chihara, Rorem / Jerome Lowenthal

Release Date: 04/08/2014 
Label:  Bridge   Catalog #: 9417   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  George RochbergPaul ChiharaNed Rorem
Performer:  Jerome Lowenthal
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 13 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

ROCHBERG Carnival Music. Nach Bach. Partita-Variations. CHIHARA Bagatelles ( Twice Seven Haikus for Piano ). ROREM 75 notes for Jerry Jerome Lowenthal (pn) BRIDGE 9417 (73:40)

More than two-thirds of this program is given over to the music of George Rochberg. In my reviews of the Naxos series of the complete piano Read more music of Rochberg, I commented that this body of work seems to grow more powerful over time, certainly gaining stature since the composer’s death in 2005. The Naxos pianists, Evan Hirsch and Sally Pinkas, deliver the music with crisp authority and brilliant color. Lowenthal’s approach is less aggressive and perhaps, even, more musical, drawing a stronger line back to the music in the traditional repertoire that inspired Rochberg, including the elegant formations of the Baroque period. This sense of musical history is obvious in Nach Bach , a wise and loving tribute to the genius of Bach, but is even more striking in the Partita-Variations , a 12-section set of superb intellectual rigor and carefully chiseled design. The strongest reference for me is to Beethoven, the Diabelli Variations in particular. I would not hesitate to call this 1976 composition a true solo piano masterpiece, and Lowenthal delivers it with vivid power.

Carnival Music was written for Lowenthal. Like Partita-Variations , this suite of five character pieces displays a remarkable range of expression and structural devices, yet works as a whole. The very opening, “Fanfares and Marches,” is a kind of microcosm of Rochberg’s late style, announcing itself with a stern, dissonant fanfare, and dissolving in and out of a jaunty march that you might hear at a country fair. A blues section is written with utterly sincere feeling, and in the “Sfumato” Brahms and Bach “appear and disappear behind a filmy sound-screen,” as the pianist describes it in his charming and insightful notes.

Paul Chihara’s Bagatelles, subtitled Twice Seven Haiku for Piano , were also written for this pianist, and he uses the work as a teaching tool for his students at Juilliard, where he has taught for many years and was chair of the piano faculty. Chihara’s delightful music makes for a whimsical foil to Rochberg’s starker language. The cat-obsessed composer includes two homages to his feline friends, sweet waltzes, and even a hip-hop farmer in his 14 brief sections. But there is some angst just slightly below the surface of this material, related to this Japanese-American’s childhood wartime internment in a West Coast camp. As Lowenthal notes, even “The Waltz for Kittens” “is a direct expression of his memory of childhood injustice.”

This superbly conceived and executed recital concludes with a touchingly gentle 75th birthday present to Jerome Lowenthal from his friend and colleague Ned Rorem, 75 notes for Jerry. It allows the listener to end this often challenging and invigorating program with a smile.

FANFARE: Peter Burwasser
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Works on This Recording

Carnival Music by George Rochberg
Performer:  Jerome Lowenthal (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1971; USA 
Venue:  American Academy of Arts & Letters 
Length: 19 Minutes 12 Secs. 
Nach Bach by George Rochberg
Performer:  Jerome Lowenthal (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1966; USA 
Venue:  American Academy of Arts & Letters 
Length: 7 Minutes 4 Secs. 
Partita Variations by George Rochberg
Performer:  Jerome Lowenthal (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1976; USA 
Venue:  American Academy of Arts & Letters 
Length: 25 Minutes 37 Secs. 
Bagatelles for piano ("Twice Seven Haiku") by Paul Chihara
Performer:  Jerome Lowenthal (Piano)
Period: Contemporary 
Written: 2010 
Venue:  American Academy of Arts & Letters 
Length: 15 Minutes 27 Secs. 
75 Notes for Jerry, for piano by Ned Rorem
Performer:  Jerome Lowenthal (Piano)
Period: Contemporary 
Written: 2007 
Venue:  American Academy of Arts & Letters 
Length: 1 Minutes 23 Secs. 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  1 Customer Review )
 Potent Post-Modern Program May 27, 2014 By Ralph Graves (Hood, VA) See All My Reviews "Pianist Jerome Lowenthal presents an attractive program of works that he has some kind of direct connection to. And that connection makes these not just informed, but exciting and insightful performances. George Rochberg's compositions make up the bulk of the release, with three works that are similar in construction, yet yield different results. "Carnival Music" (composed for Lowenthal) is a wild mix of academic atonality and commonplace blues, tangos, and marches -- filtered through a fun-house mirror. "Nach Bach" a work Lowenthal champions, is more aggressively atonal, with snatches of Bach interspersed, like sunshine glimpsed through roiling clouds. "The Partita Variations" features a number of pastiches (again, mixed with atonal elements) that culminate in a decidedly tonal three-part fugue. Lowenthal easily sails through the sudden shifts in style -- one moment playing heart-on-your-sleeve Tchaikovsky, the next icily stabbing disjunct notes across the keyboard. Paul Chihara's work, "Twice Seven Haiku for Piano," is the result of a suggestion made by Lowenthal to the composer. It's a set of quite short characteristic pieces that cover a wide range of styles and genres. These are fun little musical vignettes that Lowenthal plays with relish. The album concludes with Ned Rorem's "75 Notes for Jerry," written for Lowenthal's 75th birthday. Lowenthal's tender performance makes the work sound very close to Debussy, a fitting end to this post-modern program." Report Abuse
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